Okay, lots to report this week. Covered many miles with the feets. Just discovered Kaitlin has a blister on one. Many miles.
Anyway, starting with Friday. We went to Trinity, obviously, and saw the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells continues to be really cool, I just marvel at how intricate the decorations are, it’s hardly to be believed. Then, on our way to Dublin Castle, we saw a sign for Nutella hot chocolate, which is apparently a thing, and immediately stopped and had some. It was delicious beyond words.
Then it was on to the castle. Now, when I say castle, most people (American and European alike) have a very particular sort of image in their minds, so I want to say right out–no, it’s not really a castle. It was, several hundred years ago, but now it’s mostly just buildings that are vaguely cool, but nothing special. The exciting things are inside, it’s lavish and lovely. Also, surprise, there was a 1916 exhibit thing since the castle was used as a hospital during WWI and one of the leaders of the Rising was brought there for treatment before his execution.
Saturday, we did a bit of prehistoric Ireland at Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Newgrange is part of a series of Stone Age structures (predating the pyramids at Giza) that served basically unknown purposes. All we really know about them is 1) human ashes were kept inside 2) they align with various astronomical moments–Newgrange is sunrise on the Winter Solstice and 3) they were in use for possibly thousands of years. Newgrange is the only one we saw, but it’s super cool, lots of excitingly carved stones that very much summon up spirits of sort of Celtic something or other. The Hill of Tara was something of a seat of power in ancient/early medieval Ireland as the site of the coronations of the High Kings (which, let’s be real, is way cooler a title than normal King). There’s a specific mound there, the so-called Mound of the Hostages, that predates even Newgrange, though is much less impressive-looking. Anyway, it was all very cool.
Sunday was the actual, calendar-date 100th anniversary of the Rising, and the political party Sinn Féin (Shin Fane) hosted what I think was meant to be a parade on O’Connell Street. In the event, at least as far as we ever saw, it was a bunch of people in silly costumes sporadically playing bagpipes and marching a few steps before taking a very long break. It was underwhelming, but about what I expected, since the main celebrations by everyone else happened like a month ago.
On Monday morning, we left Dublin to see a bit of the West. Galway was our destination and what I thought was meant to be a two and a half hour bus ride ended up being four and a half. The first of several bungles on my part which I will not elaborate on here for reasons of my dignity 😉 Anyway, we spent the day in Galway just wandering around a bit. Honestly, there’s not loads within Galway itself, though it’s not a city without its charms. Highlight of the day was probably eating lunch out by the water. Though it was very (very) windy, it was also sunny and that (mostly) made up for it. Also, there were cookies.
On Tuesday (details omitted) we went to the Aran Islands, specifically, Inishmore, the largest. Lots of cool details about the island (that it has a population of about 840, that it first got electricity in 1975, that one of the two primary schools has 22 students) but I think I’ll keep it to about that. I had already been two years ago when I visited Ireland while studying abroad in England. But it was lovely to see it again, and to actually see it with someone else. On the island, there are four Iron Age forts, the biggest and coolest of which is Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus, if you will). It sits on top of a giant cliff (okay, giant, it’s about 300 feet) and is surrounded by a field of spiky rocks meant to prevent charges. Basically, it’s super cool and, while the whole island is pretty neat, definitely my favorite part. Here, also, we were graced with wonderful weather that threatened rain (and did actually, a couple times) but was mostly sunny. At the end of the day, we caught the night bus back to Dublin which was an hour shorter than our journey outward.
Yesterday, we museumed most of the day. In fact, I’ve only been to one museum here and that’s the one we didn’t go to. We did Natural History, Archeology, and the National Gallery. It was very nice. Learned lots about Ireland, mostly ancient Ireland, and got to see some rad bog bodies (they all had red hair, surprise). Also, a genuinely surprising amount of gold. So much gold–gold bracelets, gold necklaces, gold earrings, gold ball things that we’re not sure what they were used for… All the gold. Who knew.
Today, we had some good plans but were finally foiled by the rain. Not actually foiled, but it did rather get me in a bad mood. My apologies, Kaitlin. Anyway, we found some pavlova (after much ado) and that was basically the only triumph for the day. But.
This week, I’ve also encountered some good quotes which I will include here before finishing with a quick little pair of poems. Firstly, one from an exhibit at the National Gallery. It’s something Salman Rushdie said about The Wizard of Oz in a book he wrote, and I thought it was an interesting thought. Especially since I’m not ‘home’ and neither is Kaitlin, and neither of us foresee returning there, at least not to live.
Anybody who has swallowed up scriptwriters’ notion that this is a film about the superiority of ‘home’ over ‘away’…would do well to listen to the yearning in Judy Garland’s voice as her face tilts up toward the skies. What she expresses here, what she embodies with the purity of an archetype, is the human dream of leaving, a dream at least as powerful as it’s countervailing dream of roots. At the heart of The Wizard of Oz is the tension between these two dreams; but as the music swells and that big, clean voice flies into the anguished longings of the song, can anyone doubt which message is the stronger? In its most potent emotional moment, this is unarguably a film about the joys of going away, of leaving the greyness and entering the colour, of making a new life in the ‘place where there isn’t any trouble’… It is a celebration of Escape, a grand paean to the uprooted self, a hymn–the hymn–to Elsewhere.
As one who feels keenly the tension between those dreams, and who feels very deeply the emotions of that song, I just had to share. Somewhere. Somewhere over the rainbow.
Then, just a couple short ones by Oscar Wilde, a renowned wit and generally cool guy. Some of these you may be familiar with. But also, he’s worth repeating.
The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
A man who does not think for himself does not think at all.
Who, being loved, is poor?
This has been a long blog post, I know, but lots has happened. And I just like sharing things with you guys. So anyway, here’s a poem pairing for this week. They’re by Robert Frost, one of my favorite poets of all time (around there with Edna St Vincent Millay and Emily Dickenson). As promised, they’re very brief. But they say something that I really needed to hear today and which I think we all can benefit from.
A Dust of Snow
A Minor Bird
And not sing by my house all day;
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.
The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.
And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.